how to store water

How To Store Water For Emergencies (Long-Term Storage Tips)

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Water storage is something that has been on my mind lately since the recent big 7.0 earthquake that rocked Alaska. The damage is extensive and cut off vital supply lines possibly until spring. That means the deep freeze winter is going to be that much colder for many people. This is a good example of why we must know how to store water for emergencies.

We have a complimentary blog post to this one on how to purify water in case your stored water got tainted, or if you just want to make sure it’s drinkable after pulling it out of storage.

The federal government will help them, but you can’t rely on that in times of distress. Luckily, people in Alaska know to prepare for the worst and I bet a good percentage of them have stored water as well.

I’m from Southern California, where we’ve been due for “the big one” since I was a kid, and we’re still due. Unlike Alaskans, I don’t think many Californian’s are prepared for massive environmental disasters. Water storage would be step 1 to get started.


How To Store Water For Emergencies

how to store water for emergencies

They say it’s good to have stored water for emergency purposes no matter where you live in the world.

You can store enough to last you a good few days or with some extra prep, you can easily store drinkable water for up to 5 years and longer.

Here’s a good breakdown video of how to store water for emergency situations.

If a person requires around a gallon per day, you can do the math to see how much it would take to store 6 month’s worth. 55 gallon jugs can take a person almost 2 full months. These big barrels are the most popular method among “preppers.” They come in smaller sizes and are stackable.

Barrels made specifically as water storage containers come with sealed holes on top that connect to a water hose and sometimes a filter too. These make taking out water easy without risking contamination.


Short Term Water Storage (No-Bleach Natural Methods)

These are short term natural water storage methods. If you’re only storing a short time then chlorine can be overkill.

  1. Pure Water

If you’re chlorine sensitive then store bought water bottles or purified water without anything added can be stored for up to 6 months. Good for short term storage.

Water doesn’t go bad if it’s uncontaminated. It can last years. To add oxygen to old flat water, shake it before drinking to get its normal water-flavor back. A sanitized jug or barrel should be used and it should be kept in a cool area to avoid algae growth.

The most pure water would be a filtered water or reverse osmosis, but city water is pre-treated and already has the water-preserving chlorine in it. But with recycled city water you get other undetected leftovers from everyone’s flushed pharmaceuticals residuals and more.

If freezing is a concern, leave at least 12 inches space to for expansion. 6 months is not a long term solution but it would be enough to hold over any temporary water shutoff.

  1. With Vinegar

Vinegar can be a good way to disinfect and store water. Vinegar is not a chemical and can be ingested. It’s also used as a natural household cleaner for many antibacterial purposes. It’s not drunken straight out of the bottle bot it is a key ingredient in some salad dressings and in health concoctions like my olive oil, lime juice, apple cider vinegar morning shot.

Like with using nothing at all, you’ll want to store the water for 6 months to 1 year maximum before switching the water out for new.


Long Term Water Storage (5 Years)

When it comes to long term survival, you can only hold so many 55 gallon barrels. You would need to find a natural spring nearby to access water long term. It’s good to be aware of your area’s waterways and geographic qualities for long term living without public water companies.

Water To Bleach Ratio

Without any additives, it's recommended to rotate your water every 6 months.

But with some bleach added, stored water can last up to 5 years.

With Bleach

If storing water longer than 1 year, regular, unscented Clorox Bleach is used to combat any potential contaminants. Bleach is what helps kill algae growth.

It’s important that you use regular bleach and NOT scented bleach or bleach products with additives. You don’t want to put a cleaning solution in your drinking water.

Regular bleach disintegrates over time. It helps sustain your water and keep it drinkable. Chlorinating water with bleach is one way to safely store water for at least up to 5 years. You just need to test your water to maintain the proper levels of chlorine.


How To Test Your Water

You need a pool water testing kit. You can find these for cheap on Amazon or local pool supply store.

Usually the best source is water from your tap at home, which already has been treated with enough chlorine to destroy harmful pathogens – typically 1-ppm chlorine as tested with a swimming pool chlorine test kit. You might consider increasing this to 4-ppm for long term storage to be assured of a maximum safe level for drinking (according to the EPA) to eliminate and prohibit growth of pathogens.

Modern Survival Blog


How To Purify Water If It Gets Contaminated

distilled water #waterstorage

If the unfortunate event occurs that your stored water has become tainted, there are ways to purify it in order to make it drinkable again.

  • Boil It:

Boil continuously for 5 minutes to destroy most pathogens.

  • With Bleach

10 drops per gallon is a good average amount of regular bleach to add.

  • With Iodine:

They sell iodine tablets to purify water. Not as powerful or effective as bleach for purifying and disinfecting potentially contaminated water.

  • Distillation & Filtration:

Boil water, collect its newly purified condensed water that comes from the vapor.

  • Reverse Osmosis:

Reverse osmosis (RO) water combined with an activated carbon filtration system can remove total dissolved solids (TDS), turbidity, asbestos, lead, and heavy metals. While RO water can also get rid of pathogens, you should not count on water treatments for RO to purify contaminated water because that’s not what they’re designed to do. But they take out heavy metals which is a big plus. You can boil RO water to help kill pathogens.

Read the full post on how to make dirty water drinkable again here.


Extreme Weather Water Storage

Freezing Temp.

Freezing starts once below 32F. This weather is cold enough to freeze a 55 gallon barrel. One way I’ve seen people keep their water unfrozen is to dig a huge hole underground big enough to fit a few 55 gallon barrels. Concrete the bottom and its walls, then place the gallons on top of wooden pallets for air circulation and to prevent potential chemical reaction from the cement touching the plastic containers. To enclose the hole, use an insulating material like silver tarp to help keep out the light, and weather. Build a door and make it fully insulated to help keep it from freezing.

Excessive Heat

The same method of digging a hold underground is best for extreme heat. If this is not an option, then keep the water away from direct sunlight at the least.


Water Storage Containers

Food grade plastic HDPE Plastic #2 is the best material for storing water in. Glass or other material barrels have risks like breaking or getting contaminated.

You can find the popular blue 55 gallon HDPE water container barrels and the smaller, stackable 5 gallon and 2.5 gallon jugs. These are made with a sealed opening and water filter/hose attached. This makes it easier to keep your water uncontaminated.

Otherwise, without the protected and sealed hole, it’s best to use the water within a week of opening. Water does not go bad. It can be stored for years and years as long as there are zero contaminants in it. The key factor in water storage are the contaminants.

It’s good to combo the big 55 gallon jugs with some smaller 5 or 2.5 gallon HDPE jugs just in case SHTF and you have to make a move.


Storing water is different containers:

  • Storing water in copper vessels
  • Clay pots
  • Aluminum containers
  • Glass containers
  • Mylar bags: Storing water in mylar bags like the waterBOB is a perfect way to save water for an emergency, last minute. If an emergency situation strikes, you can fill the waterBOB mylar bag inside your bathtub and it will hold you over for a while and be protected from contamination. Filling the tub without the mylar bag means contamination from the tub itself or from stuff falling into the open water, making it not ideal for drinking water.

More Home Water Storage Tips

  • Gas powered generator: You never know when SHTF, and even if you’re storing water for a power outage, it’s good to have stored water ready to pour and drink. And if you have a well, it’s good to have a generator pump and gas to run it.
  • Well water: You should have a generator and gas stored as well. If electricity goes down, you need a way to pull from your well. If you have stored water, this will give you time to figure that out in the case of it happening.
  • How to clean your well with bleach: Shocking well with bleach (DIY) – YouTube
  • With water storing crystals
  • With silver coins

Conclusion: Emergency Water Storage

storing drinking water

Prepping for a disaster is smart. Water should be the first thing you learn how to store. Our bodies are about 75% water. Water can sustain life much longer than food ever can.

When researching this topic of long term water storage, one thing I learned was that many suggest to store the city tap waters. This makes sense because its been treated and already has the proper chlorine in it that helps sustain it for a long time, but at the same time it also has added fluoride and runoff from everyone’s pharmaceuticals flushed down the toilet and into the waterways that gets recycled and treated to be sent right back out to us. I think it’s better to chlorinate purified water that you know is not treated recycled sewage water.


Whether you believe in the current mainstream causes of what’s going on with our weather or not, you owe it to yourself and your family (including your pets!) to have a lot of water stored.

“They” say it’s good to have at least 6 months worth on hand at all times. This would give you enough time to weather out (no pun intended) whatever environmental disaster you face. It’s best to be confident knowing you’re prepared than in not thinking anything can happen to you. But at the end of the day it’s up to you whether you trust you’ll be protected or not. I see both sides, but usually recommend my family to prep.

We hope you enjoyed the article and that it helped you learn how to store water for emergencies. Let us know if you have any comments, corrections or suggestions! You can post in the comments below or contact us anytime.

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